In the past few decades, the world has experienced several instances of extreme temperature changes. Such periods, especially when the change is a significant rise, are what are referred to as Heat waves. They sometimes are accompanied by high humid conditions especially when the regions affected are characterized by an oceanic climate. Temperature measures have to be gauged in relation to the conditions which are considered normal in order to establish the presence of a heat wave (Robinson, Peter J (2001).
This means that temperatures perceived to be normal in some regions may be termed as heatwave conditions in other areas. In 2010, the Northern Hemisphere Heatwave affected a large area of North America, Asia, Africa as well as the whole of the European continent leaving a trail of death and destruction (Meehl, G. A (2004). In this paper, we shall be looking at how Russia was affected by this weather condition, how the emergency response was provided, and finally, provide crisis management recommendations which will help improve future reactions.
In approximately 130 years, Russia had never experienced temperatures rising above the 100 0F mark, however, this was the case even before the summer of 2010. According to studies, the last heat wave had been experienced just six years earlier, in 2003. This had been caused by an overlap of two different hot weather blankets over the European atmosphere. However, the severity of the two was incomparable especially in terms of the average temperature rise.
During this time, entire northern Russia was experiencing a very hot and dry weather condition which had begun in the period between the end of May and the start of June (Stefanon, M.
, et al 2012). The temperatures recorded during this time included a 35 degrees Celsius (95 0F) high, first experienced around mid-June. This was a very abnormal temperature for the country which at this time, in normal situations, would have temperatures averaging at 30 0C and below. Later on, in late June, temperatures of regions such as the Eurasian Sakha Republic and taiga had risen to about 38- 40 0C. These conditions slowly spread across the western parts of Russia up to the mountains of the Ural and European Russia by the end of July.
The Asian portion of Russia had previously recorded temperatures of about 41.7 0C in 2004, which were the highest in the history of the country, but on the 25th of June, 2010, a new record was set. The temperatures rose to a high of 42.3 0C in Belogorsk. As of July 10, some areas in the country such as the Yashkul regions had recorded temperatures of up to 44 0C, higher than the historical temperature high of 43.8 0C recorded in the year 1940. On average, the country had experienced a temperature increase of about 35 0C, daytime periods having an average rise of 40 0C.
The heat wave was one of a kind and had never been expected to happen in the country, or at least to be as severe as it was. The average death toll in Moscow alone rose from the normal 350 to over 700 people. In total, reports from the Epidemiology of Disasters Centre of Research (CRED) indicated that there were close to 55, 736 people who died due to the effects of the temperature changes (Guo, Y., et al 2018). There were several reported fire incidences that affected areas including those once affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster close to the border of Russia and Ukraine.
The fires created a situation where the particles of plants and soil previously contaminated by the radioactive material from the incident were heated and released into the atmosphere, spreading over a larger area. There was, however, no substantial rise in radiation levels which would have caused health risks at the time. The carbon monoxide levels, however, had risen to very high levels poisoning the atmosphere. This, together with dehydration, accidental fires due to the dry environment, and drowning incidences while escaping the scorching heat were the major causes of the deaths experienced during this period (Jonathan A., et al 2014).
On average, a total of 300,000 hectares of the geographic area was burned down by the fires brought about by the heat wave. A large area of this land was used as farming land, woodlands as well as settlement villages. Russian officials stated that the total value of the destroyed assets such as crops and houses rose above 15 billion dollars. And from this, over 2000 homes and villages were destroyed across the country.
In a report by the Moscow times, it was stated that despite most of the Russian firefighters having snubbed the less experienced volunteers, they managed to save lives in most of the villages, which the firefighters could not easily access, using simple tools. In the Yovino village, the fires did not burn out after the suppression of the fire horse. The volunteer efforts using shovels and backpacks were instrumental in isolating the groundcover which was still burning in order to access the villages and put out the line of fire. In many of the cases, the informal fire management efforts were more effective the professional methods. Volunteer coordination was done through websites such as the Russian-fires.ru as well as that used for volunteer coordination in Haiti and Chile after the earthquakes, the Ushahidi platform.
There were only three reported volunteer casualties, one who died in the district of Lukhovitsy on July 29th. The second casualty died in Mordovia. He was discovered by the police on patrol on 4th August 3 days after succumbing to what was established as carbon monoxide poisoning. The third was involved in a car crash on the 14th of August in the District of Shatursky.